HIKONE, SHIGA, PREF. – Since May 2011, a newspaper published by high school students in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, has been updating readers on the situation in Fukushima Prefecture.
The series, “Connecting Fukushima,” in the Hikone Higashi High School newspaper also features people in Shiga who assist in the reconstruction of the prefecture.
“In order to prevent the disaster from being forgotten, we’d like our schoolmates to know how the people in Fukushima feel and what they think,” said 16-year-old newspaper club head Sota Okumura.
The club is a competitive group. In 2013, it won the top award in the annual national high school newspaper review for the seventh time. The club publishes a regular paper 11 times a year and issues bulletins on such occasions as when the school’s baseball team makes it to the national tournament in the prestigious Hanshin Koshien Stadium.
Members of the newspaper club started the serial on Fukushima “in order to bring Shiga and Fukushima together,” after reading a story about the resumption of classes at Soma High School in an April 2011 edition of the newspaper published by the school in the Fukushima city of Soma. They received a copy as part of exchanges between teachers in charge of the two schools’ newspaper clubs.
The members were struck by the attitude of their counterparts in Soma, who published a newspaper even while caught up in the confusion that followed the March 2011 disaster and subsequent nuclear crisis.
In August 2011, about 15 members of the Hikone Higashi High School newspaper club visited disaster areas in Fukushima, to report on the efforts of local students working for a national high school cultural festival there.
Last February and March, the club issued a special edition featuring disaster reconstruction support, based on interviews with students involved in the Soma High School newspaper, a senior editor at local newspaper publisher Fukushima-Minpo Co. and parents and children in the prefectural capital of Fukushima.
Daisuke Hirota, a 28-year-old engineer at the Lake Biwa Policy Division of the Shiga Prefectural Government, was interviewed by student reporters from Hikone in 2013 when he was on loan to the Fukushima Prefectural Government’s division promoting decontamination in areas hit by radioactive fallout.
“At the time, there were many unfounded rumors about Fukushima. I was glad that they helped to correct the understanding of the local situation,” Hirota said.
Club members also wrote about people in Shiga who organize events to support disaster reconstruction, such as one to promote products from Fukushima, and those taking part in assistance for disaster areas.
Last October, members raised ¥180,000 for Fukushima during a mascot expo held in Hikone.
Iori Yoshida, the 17-year-old leader of a team dedicated to reporting on Fukushima, interviewed elementary school children from Fukushima who lost friends in the disaster during a camping trip to Shiga in summer 2012.
Yoshida was impressed by how calm the students were in looking back at the tragedy. “I found there are things we would never know unless we heard them directly from the people concerned,” he said.